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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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ARTICLE
Year : 2008  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 308-319

The Mechanics of Legitimation: An Aristotelian Perspective on Environmental Narratives


Department of Social Anthropology, Arthur Lewis Building, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Alex Flynn
Department of Social Anthropology, Arthur Lewis Building, University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.49194

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Narratives dominate the environmental agenda. Emery Roe has first confronted such narratives as 'Ex­cept-Africa' and secondly argued that these narratives cannot be easily undermined. Rather, counter­narratives need to be generated that can better represent the nuanced realities of the situations to which they pertain. But what makes a successful narrative? This article argues that successful environmental narratives (a) conform to a certain literary schematic of how to construct a good narrative and (b) that it is from the combined elements of this schematic that they derive the facility to influence, shape and determine the actions of their 'readers'. That is, it is from the mechanics of their construction that their legitimising influence is drawn. This paper is divided into four sections. Firstly, there is a demonstration, using two parallel literary texts, of how the Aristotelian model of narrative functions. Secondly, this Aris­totelian conceptual framework of narrative is applied to environmental discourses, focusing on the 'Except-Africa' narrative, to demonstrate that successful environmental narratives share the exact com­ponents of literary texts. Thirdly, the focus shifts to several sub-narratives of the 'Except-Africa' narra­tive to illustrate how the mechanics of the Aristotelian model in concert, but principally the component ethos, are crucial when examining the consequences of narrative mobilisation. The paper suggests that when constructing counter-narratives, the schematic that is highlighted here could be a useful tactic to try and undermine the backbone of the environmental policy-making agenda.


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